From the Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly scandals to the #MeToo movement on social media, sexual harassment is on everybody’s minds.
The scandals have shed light on just how persistent workplace harassment still is in spite of the fact that 90% of U.S. employers have sexual harassment training in place. Is there a better solution?
The problem with the training is while it educates employees on what constitutes harassment, studies show it doesn’t do enough to change behavior – especially among those in positions of power. In fact, the EEOC says the number of workplace harassment complaints has either stayed the same or risen since 2010.
As a result, in 2016 the EEOC assembled a task force to examine what companies can do to reduce harassment in the workplace.
What you can do
Suggestions from researchers:
Adjust power inequalities. Research suggests workplaces at the highest risk for harassment are ones that have more men in leadership roles than women. This can spur an environment where women are preyed upon by their superiors, researchers say. A possible fix for this is to consider putting more women in leadership roles, conveying that women and men are equals.
Make it clear harassment will not be tolerated. Leadership should hold all harassers accountable and take swift, appropriate action.
Promote civility and respect. Rather than telling employees not to harass one another (which is the focus of a lot of training programs), find ways to encourage them to be respectful.
Ensure everyone knows how to report harassment. Make reporting processes clear, and encourage bystanders to take action too.